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First Scandinavian Police Oversight Body Conference

Scandinavian ConferenceThe first Scandinavian Police Oversight Body Conference was held by the Swedish Prosecution Authority (National Police-related Crimes Unit) and the Norwegian Bureau for the Investigation of Police Affairs from 25 to 26 May 2010 in Hamar, Norway.

The goal of the conference was to develop relations and exchange information, views and best practices. Participants included investigators, prosecutors and administrative staff. The Directors of the two bodies accounted for similarities and differences in the structures, mandate and statistics of the Norwegian and the Swedish organizations. The conclusion drawn was that the two entities face a lot of the same challenges when it comes to investigation and prosecuting cases; but also when it comes to interacting and keeping a constructive dialogue with the civil society. An example was given to the public explaining why a high percentage of the cases are – rightfully - dismissed.

High-profile cases were presented by both organizations. The conclusion was that one can learn from each other’s cases, especially since Norway and Sweden have similar legislation and societal structures. As of today, there is no direct operational cooperation between the two bodies, but contacts have been made in order to develop a closer relation and learn from each other’s experiences.

Three experts gave lectures on relevant topics. Firstly, Professor Liv Finstad from the Institute of Criminology at the University of Oslo presented a survey conducted within operational forces in two large cities and three rural police districts on the issue of "Stress and Strain” in the police and how it affects occupational attitudes, focusing especially on the individual police officer. The second lecture covered threats against the police. Mr. Paul Jenkins from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA) in London stressed the importance of taking police corruption seriously. Corrupt officers are particularly dangerous since they know the investigators and have access to police databases and registers. Criminal organizations are very interested in information from the police. Leaking such information must be treated seriously and dealt with as a matter for disciplinary and penal investigations and – ultimately - sanctions.

Thirdly, Mr. Lee Warhurst, Secretary ACPO Vetting Portfolio of the Hampshire Constabulary HQ, introduced the concept of force vetting. Vetting is a process by which individuals (both civilians and police officers) are screened before being given access to an organization’s assets. It is a continuous and dynamic process that should secure the public’s confidence in the police force.

The reasons why police officers commit criminal acts on duty are complex. The lectures given at this conference gave an insight into strategies to analyse and understand risks and to prevent unwanted incidents. The Director of the Norwegian Bureau has brought the matter to the attention of Norwegian Chiefs of Police. In the Bureau’s annual report of 2009, the issue is also raised in an article titled, "Can criminal acts within the police be prevented?”. The article asks whether police leaders are aware of the risks and treat them in a way that actually prevents unwanted behaviour to become criminal behaviour.

The conference has contributed to establish a good platform for permanent direct dialogue between the two organizations. The goal for the future is to try to establish a Nordic conference on a regular basis.

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